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Sourdough discard cinnamon sugar cake donuts

Don’t throw out that sourdough starter! Use a cup’s worth and make the softest, most delicate cinnamon sugar cake donuts this side of the Mississippi.

Waste not, want not.

That’s what old people say. And in this case it’s waste not, want dough-nots. See what I did there?

With a heaping cup of sourdough discard on hand you can make a giant batch of these donuts which are by no other fitting description completely melt in your mouth devine.


The scoop on sourdough starter discard

If you stumbled in to this post you may not be sure what I mean by sourdough discard. For those of us who are embracing the movement back to healthy bread–real bread–that means making wild yeast leavened sourdough (<–that’s a link to my class where I teach sourdough baking) which is made with a starter.

Each day you take out half and feed your starter to keep it alive and active so it can make bread.

But throwing away that half of the starter feels wasteful, so a lot of people use it to add a tangy flavor to other baked goods–like these cake donuts.

Do these donuts taste like sourdough?

That’s a big negative. In fact, they just tasted like cake donuts to me but you have to keep in mind we aren’t using the starter to rise these donuts: Baking powder does the heavy lifting.

What’s the difference between a cake donut and a regular one?

Cake donuts are made from flour, eggs, sugar and a leavening agent like baking powder which gives them a cake-like crumbly texture.

“Regular” donuts like you would buy in most bakeries slathered in chocolate or glazed to the heavens are made with yeast and required to rise a couple of times before they are fried.

Can these donuts be baked instead of fried?

I didn’t test them baked because I am a donut purist. I use refined coconut oil and not vegetable oil for frying and never look back.

If you wanted to bake them, they would likely work okay. May have a tad of a flat side, but if you don’t mind that then that’s fine with me. I’d probably bake them around 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes but that’s just a guess.

What if I don’t have any sourdough starter? Can I make these anyway?

Yes! I would recommend adding something to make up the difference in moisture. Maybe a cup of sour cream or whole milk plain yogurt would be a good swap.

Sourdough cake donuts steps in pictures

four images of mixing the donut batter
  • Cream butter and sugar.
  • Add eggs, starter, vanilla and milk.
  • Add dry ingredients.
  • Allow dough to sit and “firm” slightly.
  • Roll out to 3/4″ thick then cut circles.
  • Fry 1 to 2 minutes per side, toss in cinnamon sugar.
donut batter rolled out and donuts cut ready for frying

Looking for a regular yeasted donut? Try this version or bake your next batch of apple cider donuts.

The Recipe

two cake donuts in a box

Sourdough discard cinnamon sugar cake donuts

So tender they melt in your mouth. These sourdough discard cake donuts will be a special treat!
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Save Recipe
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 432kcal
Author: Rachel Ballard


For the cinnamon sugar

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar granulated or raw cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

For the donuts

  • 8 tablespoons butter salted or unsalted and softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar coconut sugar would work too
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sourdough starter you can swap in sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups refined coconut oil for frying


  • In a small bowl mix the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl use a hand mixer to cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, sourdough starter, vanilla and milk and mix well.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not overmix.
  • Allow the dough to sit 2 to 3 minutes to firm slightly. The dough should be soft but workable.
  • Lightly flour your counter and turn out the dough. Dust the top with flour and roll about 3/4" thick.
  • Use a round cutter to cut circles about 3 inches wide and a smaller cutter to cut out the centers.
  • Heat the oil over medium high heat in a heavy pot or skillet to a depth of about 3 inches. Just deep enough that the donuts don't stick to the bottom until the oil reaches 375 degrees.
  • Add the donuts in batches of 3 or 4, turning when golden brown on one side–about 2 minutes. Cook 1 to 2 minutes more then transfer to the cinnamon sugar and toss to coat.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature and may also be frozen for up to 2 months.


Calories: 432kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 216mg | Potassium: 183mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 344IU | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 2mg

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Recipe Rating

Tiffany Ravensbergen

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

I used the air fryer too. I have a basket one so I sprayed my basket. I did 4mins each side at 375 and they turned out great.

Rachel Ballard

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

Wonderful note Tiffany thank you!--Rachel

Christine Dikman

Sunday 20th of September 2020

I tried the Air Fryer!!! Oh, my... First of all, this is a GREAT recipe. Simple, caky, yummy... It's a super recipe to try different methods of cooking them. I don't think I've ever made donuts before, there is something about 4 cups of cooking oil that stops me. I almost heated the oil, but then I thought, what about my air fryer? Well... It was a fun and somewhat successful experiment.

The first ones I just cooked, but they were dry and nothing stuck. By the time I was done, I took the cut donuts, sprayed the top and bottom well with my coconut oil spray, doused them generously in the sugar mix and stuck them in the air fryer. I was amazed. They are pretty good: maybe not for the donut purist, but for us who are reluctant to deep fat fry! Try might be surprised!! I sure was!!!


Thursday 14th of January 2021

@Christine Dikman, I tried mine in the air fryer and it didn’t work as well for me. What temp did you cook at and for how long? Did spraying with coconut spray keep them from drying out? TIA!

Rachel Ballard

Monday 21st of September 2020

Way to go Christine! I don't have an air fryer--I'm sure your test will help others use theirs. --Rachel


Sunday 9th of August 2020

I made these doughnuts twice and they are yummy. Only thing though I found deep frying them for two minutes on one side tend to burn/over cook them. Third time around I plan to flip them over 30 seconds to evenly cook them flipping them until they are golden brown on both sides.

Jennifer Santos

Friday 3rd of July 2020

Can these be baked?

Rachel Ballard

Sunday 5th of July 2020

Hey Jennifer, there's a whole section about baking them up in the post if you want to bounce up there and take a look at it. --Rachel


Saturday 27th of June 2020

These are very yummy!!

Also, use a thermometer! My first round burnt in 5 seconds because of too hot oil

Rachel Ballard

Saturday 27th of June 2020

Ha ha! If you're new to frying you will need to practice. Donuts are especially tricky for overcooking and getting them too dark. Frying takes a lot of practice! --Rachel